The Short Films of Maude Michaud [Women in Horror Month 2019]

Maude Michaud is a filmmaker from Montreal who has an affinity for the dark side and horror films. See our interview with Maude and previous reviews of her work “At the Door,” and “Frankenstein Unlimited,” to see some of the other things she has going.

Maude’s films are all fascinating to watch as they give insight into the mind of a creative woman with a dark twist to her endeavors. Here are short takes on some of her short films.

Model Complex (Modele Complexe) (Canada) (2007)
A man with his life in order, quiet, organized, perfectly calm, meets a French-Canadian pin-up girl who turns his life and his self-identity upside down. In this short, the view that oneself has to themselves is looked into and what others think of each person and how it affects them is a theme that is explored with a few twists and turns, perfect for Maude’s filmmaking style. This early outing is simple, yet fun to watch and it makes for a great entrance into her work. The cast composed of Penelope Jolicoeur, Jason McCullough, Michaud herself, Kate Parson, and Ann Campagna works fantastically well together here, creating a world of their own and one that the viewer can truly plunge into. The use of triptych and split screens creates an effect that adds to film and feels organic to the story and the animation parts are lovely and quirky in the right way. The film may be more offbeat than horror but its observations on the mommy complex would make Oedipus proud.

Recessed (Canada) (2007)
A strange woman haunts a man’s dreams which slowly start mixing with his waking life. The film here takes some inspiration from ghost stories, at least visually, with some clear influence from jurei and other similar ghosts. Here dreams and waking life mix together in a way that creates interest and mystery, quickly grabbing the viewer and making them stay for the ride. The cast led by Daniel Thomas, Caroline Hurteau, and Thalia Farkhas gives performances that are purposefully unclear in some ways but work with the story the best way possible. The film shows promise and is definitely interesting, creating something that makes the viewer want to see more from writer/director Maude Michaud.

Reflection (made as part of Frankenstein Unlimited)
Starting with great intro credits, the film shows a story where inner and outer beauty are put against one another as a woman who is a charming person changes her outer image and becomes less lovely on the inside. While this description is very basic, the short is nothing but, showing this in a great way that keeps the attention and make the viewer feel for her and the people around here while also considering the situation as related to themselves. The acting here by the entire cast is good with a few exception that are above the rest. Reflection is a study of humans and their relationship with beauty and how much importance they give it while also considering how those who do not have as much as considered in society. The introspective side of the film is what makes it so interesting and makes one want to see more in terms of what is offered by the filmmaker but also in terms of what is on screen.

The Portrait (Canada)
This interesting one location short film takes The Oval Portrait by Edgar Allen Poe and makes it more modern while giving it a new twist of sorts. The film here depends greatly on the performances and the cinematography. All of these are well done with a great attention to detail, giving the film something more than just two people talking in a room with some creep factor thrown it. Knowing little about this one before seeing it, giving the least possible away before getting in. The direction and writing take the story above what one might expect, making the short something that is perfectly short, perfectly crafted.

Hollywood Skin (Canada) (2010)
An actress trying to make it in LA encounters body image issues and eventually takes drastic, bloody measures to fit in and get the parts she is after. Written and directed by Michaud, this short approaches body issues with a very real, very direct view on the subject, showing her voice in making this a genre piece and adding blood and some true body horror to a story that will emotionally connect with anyone that has ever seen themselves as fat or compared themselves to any Hollywood star’s perfect body. Here it’s all put under a microscope and made to come to a boil by the end where it becomes a hard hitting short film. The special effects by Sebastien Montpetit need to be noted for being effective and just about the best for the story.

Snuff (Canada) (2010)
Shot on Super 8, this short has the perfect look to replicate a snuff film while showing a story with an interesting twist. Here the leads are played by Isabelle Stephen and Martin Plouffe who effectively carry the entire film. Their work make this one an almost believable snuff film with the small note that it is not as it is a film by Michaud and not something found on the dark web. The cinematography is a dead giveaway as it gives the film too much style, but in this case it works.  It’s a nice black and white study of what a short snuff film could be.

Red (Canada) (2011)
In this temporary rental cautionary tale, a woman comes to rent a room out of a man’s house and finds much more than she bargained for in his homemade VHS collection, or does he come across more than he bargained for when she finds said collection? With special effects once again by Sebastien Montpetit, this short takes the story in a direction that may not be too expected and once it does, it becomes really fun in a dark, dark way. This short stars Cameron Hartl and Olga, with supporting roles going to Shannon Lark and Isabelle Stephen, putting together an ensemble that works on many levels and show what Michaud is able to bring the screen.

T is for Toothpick (Canada)
Done as a part of the ABC’s of Death Contest, T is for Toothpick stands strong on its own, showing what the filmmaker can do with set boundaries and a wild imagination. Here a woman is obsessed with toothpicks and uses them creatively. This short is one of those fun takes on something so simple as toothpicks adding horror as a factor and letting it go wild. While the writing and directing are great, the acting from the lead actress comes off a bit grating which may very well be the point. Her toothpick chewing is maddening but works in the end in a way that is hard to explain.

Please check out Maude’s YouTube channel and subscribe to see more of her work as she posts it. You can also follow here on her website.